The Buzzkill News About Drinking Alcohol
New research undermines wishful thinking
It was so comforting to think that a daily glass of wine or a stiff drink packed health benefits, warding off disease and extending life. But a distillation of the latest research reveals a far more sobering truth: Considering all the potential benefits and risks, some researchers now question whether any amount of alcohol can be considered good for you.
Compared with lifetime teetotalers, people who consume seven to 13 drinks a week are 53% more likely to have high blood pressure, defined as 130/80 or higher, according to a recent study of 17,059 U.S. adults published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
High blood pressure, known as the “silent killer,” raises the risk of heart attack, stroke, and dementia. The study’s lead researcher, Amer Aladin of Wake Forest Baptist Health, offers some frank advice: “If you are drinking a moderate or large amount of alcohol, ask your provider to check your blood pressure at each visit and help you cut down your drinking and eventually quit.”
For years, moderate drinking — typically defined as one drink (such as regular beer or a glass of wine) per day for women and up to two for men — had been billed as a way to reduce the risk of stroke, in which a vessel carrying blood to the brain bursts or is clotted. But a study earlier this year, involving more than 500,000 men and women in China and published in the Lancet, refutes that claim.
“There are no protective effects of moderate alcohol intake against stroke,” says one of the study’s co-authors, University of Oxford professor Zhengming Chen. “Even moderate alcohol consumption increases the chances of having a stroke.”
“The notion that one or two drinks a day is doing us good may just be wishful thinking.”
Another new study examined self-reported drinking habits and mental well-being of people in Hong Kong and the United States, and how those factors changed over a four-year period. The researchers compared lifetime abstainers to moderate drinkers to moderate drinkers who quit.